World Lion Day
Posted on August 8th 2021
World Lion Day is being celebrated on 10th August. The aim is to raise awareness and gather support for lion conservation. Lions are listed as an endangered species in the IUCN Red List.
To support World Lion Day and celebrate conservation of lions here are 10 lion facts:
- Lions are social animals
Lions are the most social of the big cats. They live in groups called prides, which can contain as many as 40 lions. However, usually prides consist of 10 to 15 lions, with several adult females, their cubs and up to four males.
- Lionesses do the work
Lions go on the hunt for food mostly from dusk till dawn. Female lions do most of the prides hunting, whilst the male lions patrol the territory and protect the pride. The females are smaller and more agile than the males, and work as a team to bring down their prey. Even though it is the females that catch the meal, there is a pecking order as to who eats first. Adult males have first pick, followed by the lionesses and finally the cubs.
- Engineered for hunting
Lions have everything needed to make them superb hunters. They hunt mostly between dusk and dawn, and have superb night vision to allow them to do so. They are fast, running in bursts of up to 50 miles per hour, and can jump up to 36 feet. They hunt as a pack, spanning out in a semi circle with the smaller lionesses on the outside forcing the prey towards the centre of the group.
- Lions need food daily
Lions can need to eat every day. Whereas they can go for up to four days without drinking water, however if available they will drink daily. A female lion needs 5kg of meat a day. A male needs 7kg or more a day. Lions mostly prey on large herbivores such as wildebeest, zebra, and buffalo, they have also been known to eat smaller prey such as birds, lizards, mice and even tortoises.
- King of the jungle?
Often known as the ‘king of the jungle’, most lions actually live in the savannah or grasslands. Lions were once found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe but now exist only in Africa with one exception. The last remaining forest dwelling Asiatic lions are found in Sasan-Gir National Park in India, which was primarily created to protect the species. Currently, there are approximately 350-400 lions in the park.
- Raising cubs a team effort
Male lions don’t directly take part in parenting their cubs. The lionesses in a pride tend to give birth around the same time which allows multiple cubs to be raised together collectively. The cubs are taken care of by the lionesses until they around two or three years old. Once a lioness is carrying another litter the two to three year old cubs are forced out of the pride to either fend for themselves or find another pride.
- Cubs born blind
When lion cubs are born they are very small and their eyes remain closed until two or three weeks old. A lioness will shield her cubs from the pride for a few weeks until they are old enough to follow the pride. These first few weeks are challenging for the lioness as the cubs are vulnerable to attack from other animals such as large birds, snakes and male lions.
- Big cats
Male lions can grow up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 550 pounds, whereas female lions can grow to a length of 9 feet and weigh up to 390 pounds. Lions are the second largest big cat, being only slightly smaller than the Siberian tiger.
- Lions beyond Africa
Fossils and historical records show that lions were once found in northern Africa, Europe, the Middle East and into Asia. Today, the only country outside of sub saharan Africa that has wild lions is India, with a very small population surviving in and around the Gir National Park.
- Tree climbers
Some lions choose to climb trees, although it is not a usual practice. Male lions are typically too heavy to climb trees, but smaller and more agile females have been known to climb. There are several reasons as to why. It can be to avoid biting insects on the ground, or seek out the coolness of the trees shade, or escape from an angry herd of buffalo, or to seek a good vantage point so as to see prey. This practice has been observed in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.
If you would like to find out about supporting conservation efforts for lions then please visit our Adopt a Lion page.